FORMER Prime Minister, Cavaco Silva, has broken silence about his presidential ambitions, saying he still had “some doubts” over his candidacy.
Speaking at Porto’s Economics Faculty on the theme of “Portugal – The Way of Convergence”, Cavaco Silva urged Prime Minister José Sócrates to press ahead with vital measures that “could no longer be postponed”. He said the government’s current ‘honeymoon’ with the voters has created a climate favourable to change and noted that indicators now heralded an end to the recent cycle of negative economic growth.
Cavaco Silva said that “indispensable” reforms were necessary in the judiciary and the public sector in order to boost overall competitiveness. He acknowledged that the reforms could prove unpopular and trigger a temporary rise in unemployment, but he described them as vital for long-term prosperity.
He also said that anti-globalisation rhetoric, particularly directed against countries in Eastern Europe and Asia, was pointless because the world market was here to stay. He urged Portuguese businesses to specialise in greater quality, increased value and technological innovation.
Cavaco Silva said exports had to be strengthened. “In 1990, this sector represented 33 per cent of GDP, five per cent above the European average, while in 2004 it corresponded to 31 per cent, four per cent below the European average,” he said.
He conceded that businesses bore ultimate responsibility in this area, but insisted that the government could create the right conditions for success. He suggested the state should concentrate on countries such as America, Brazil and Spain, rather than targeting numerous markets. Cavaco particularly urged the government to capture more of the Spanish market. He said Spain was more receptive to Portuguese exports, noting that Portugal enjoyed huge advantages over other countries in this respect.
Cavaco Silva also congratulated Marques Mendes on his election as the new leader of the opposition Social Democrats (PSD), the party that he once led, saying that Portugal needed “a strong and credible opposition”.